Uncle John & D-Day, 78 years ago today

June 6, 2022 on 9:07 am by Michael Grey | In Photographs, Stories | No Comments

Today marks the 78th anniversary of the historic D-Day operation. On June 6, 1944, in the midst of World War II, Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy in Nazi-occupied France

My dad’s brother, John, was a sergeant in the Sherbrooke Fusilier Regiment, known in WWII as the 27th Armoured Regiment.

I have in my possession a number of Uncle John’s souvenirs and war-time artefacts. A couple of pages of one is shown here from a slim, cardboard-covered, 10 by 16 centimetres “Soldier’s Service Book”.

Within these pages are identification basics, including trade on enlistment [farmer], religion, next of kin, education [grade 8], immunization records and training completed [completed TOETS-Rifle-Anti-tank Rifle-Bren-Machine Carbine-Grenade-Anti-Gas-J.D.-1st Aid-Chamber … Motor Mech ‘B’].

Pictured is page 17, “Miscellaneous Entries”. Note the last entry, surely the most understated of any possible diary note, “Landed in France 1130 hrs – 6-6-44.

Uncle John’s regiment loaded their landing craft in Ostend, England on 3 June, 1944. The regiment was equipped with waterproofed Sherman and Sherman Firefly tanks, pulling “Porpoise” sledges filled with supplies. After a 24hr weather pause, they landed to the west of Bernières-sur-Mer of Juno Beach just after noon on 6 June 1944 [1130 h according to Uncle John] with the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade (CIB).

From wikipedia:

The Sherbrooke Fusilier Regiment was assigned tank force to exploit through the bridgehead created by the assault infantry and tanks of the 8th CIB. The beach was congested with other troops, and progress was slow getting inland to their assembly area near Beny-sur-Mer.

With about 3 hours of daylight remaining and three companies of North Nova Scotias riding on their tanks, the SFR passed through the assault battalions’ forward lines and fought their way southward toward their preplanned D-Day objectives. The North Nova Scotia’s reached Villons-les-Buissons by dusk and ran into more German resistance. When it was evident that their objectives were still about four miles beyond near Carpiquet, they formed all-around defences around La Mare for the night. Behind them the brigade was fighting bypassed German positions in the assembly area.

Sergeant John Grey was one of the lucky ones. The last page of his Soldier’s Service Book was never referenced – “WILL”. His page was left blank. In fact, he was to live another 55 years.

Spare a thought today for those young people on the beaches of Normandy 78 years ago today, “congested with troops” and fighting for their lives, and the lives of those at home.

These soldiers fought real Nazis. Not the make-believe kind Russia today touts.

M.

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